Climate Change

Climate change impacts

Changes in the climate and the landscape are already impacting northerners. These climate change impacts – some of which are identified in the Northwest Territories Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report – are outlined below.

Changes in ice conditions due to warmer temperatures

  • Shorter winter road seasons due to freeze-up occurring later in the fall and break-up occurring earlier in the spring
  • Increased coastal erosion due to decreased sea ice
  • Decreased ability of traditional knowledge holders to hunt and trap due to shorter ice seasons

Changes in precipitation patterns

  • Differences in the amounts and timing of rain and snow, resulting in stresses on the flora and fauna of the NWT
  • Differences in the amounts and timing of rain and snow, resulting in damage to buildings and infrastructure and increased operations and maintenance costs
  • Changes in the flood and drought cycle of the NWT, resulting in less understanding of current climactic conditions
  • Changes in storm frequency and storm surges impacting coastal erosion
  • Changes in storm frequency decreasing the ability of traditional knowledge holders to understand and predict weather conditions

Degradation of permafrost across the NWT

  • An overall decrease of permafrost throughout the NWT
  • Thawing permafrost impacting water resources, forests and wildlife habitat
  • Thawing permafrost resulting in damage to infrastructure such as roads, runways and sewer systems
  • Permafrost thaw slumps forming along river valleys. Thaw slumps often result in increased river sediment and decreased fish habitat in rivers and lakes.
  • Decreased permafrost in coastal areas resulting in increased coastal erosion

Changes due to warming ambient air temperature

  • Increases in invasive species of plants and animals moving into the warmer NWT, causing increased stress upon current plant and animal populations
  • Changes to the species composition of the plants and animals of the NWT, limiting the understanding of traditional knowledge holders to harvest country foods
  • Drier forests in the NWT resulting in a longer forest fire season with more extreme forest fires
  • Increased exposure of residents, plants and animals to unfamiliar pests and diseases from outside of the NWT
  • Changes to biological events, such as the timing of leaf emergence or wildlife migrations